New Bathroom Door and Wall

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We decided our next project would be building the the bathroom wall. It was the next “big thing” we needed to have in our house so we could start measuring and drafting up plans for our closets, one of which would actually make up the back wall to the bathroom. We already installed the short wall that surrounded our tub, so now we needed to extend that wall over to the other end of the loft. This was a huge change for us! The kitchen and bathroom became two different and distinct rooms, and the final form of our interior was finally beginning to take shape.

So we went to the blue store (one of our many journeys there) to get some ideas and look around for supplies.

Now, you need to understand something here. We go there ALL THE TIME, And that is NOT an understatement. Pretty much every day we go there to buy something. (Seriously, we should buy stock in their company.) Exhibit A: Drew and I were there around 8:30pm one night looking for god knows what. We were both exhausted and covered in sawdust. Drew was looking for something in the electrical aisle, and suddenly, a young employee said, jokingly, “I feel like I see you guys here every day. Do you live in here?” Note, we’ve never seen this guy there before (and trust me, we recognize workers. We know which ones know their stuff and which ones are hard of hearing and therefore shout at us when answering our questions.) Drew replied “Yeah, we practically do live here at this point.” I guess we don’t blend in anymore…

Anyway, we found the door section and discovered they had pre-made pocket door frames with the rolling track and everything we needed to put up a wall in our house in less than a day. We found one that was just large enough for a 24″ door and discovered we could make that fit perfectly in our space. But what about the door itself? We looked at their selection and found some solid wood doors that would have been perfect, only they were a bit too tall for the space under our loft. They were the perfect width though. So, we decided to get one anyway and cut it down. Simple enough.

What we both liked about this door was that it had glass panes! It would look really nice from the kitchen and would still let bathroom light pour into the kitchen. The problem? The glass was see-through…

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Our pocket door after we cut it down and put on a coat or two of varnish.

We just couldn’t find any with frosted glass panes, so, as we do, we got creative.

So here’s the plan: we’re going to frost the glass ourselves and then paint some sort of mural on the glass to add some style. It’ll be pretty cool! We plan to shelve this project for a little while, since we have so many more pressing projects to work on at the moment. We’re looking forward to it though!

Okay. So we have our materials. Time to install!

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Luckily the frame was basically ready to install. Like most door frames on the market it was just too tall for our tiny house, but since the frame was made out of just wood we could take it apart, cut it to height, and then put it back together.

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Our bathroom ‘wall!’ The bucket is a stand-in for our lovely toilet, there for sizing.

Once the frame was the right height, it was a simple matter of sliding it into place and then nailing it to our loft beams and floor. We did have to cut small pieces of a 4×4 beam to act as a spacer above the pocket door frame, but it was a very quick process.

Next, all we had to do was add a door stop. Drew made one up from a piece of cherry and screwed it into place, and that was it.

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Next we’ll be working on the closet on the back of the bathroom wall. More to come!

Interior Wall Boards – Part II, Installation

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You know those dreams you have where you’re slogging through some sort of hypothetical mud and can’t seem to get anywhere? That’s how the past few months have gone for us.

This is mainly due to both of us working all the time, and that makes it so that our schedules rarely line up to where we can both work on the house. This has been especially difficult since we’ve been working on installing the walls, which really is a two person job. We’re lucky if we can get in one day a week where we can actually make some progress.

Anyway, I hope that helps explain why our blog posts have been so rare the past few months. We know we’re getting closer to the finish line, but man has it been slow. Especially compared to the first few months we worked on the house when we were able to get the structural walls up in about a month. Let it be known to all people who wish to build a tiny house, your finish work will take a long time and will require a lot of patience! Just keep at it!

So as we mentioned in our previous post, we finally finished creating all the boards for the interior walls. Next came installing them. This went rather smoothly – the main challenge was working around outlets, light-switches, and windows.. especially when we had to deal with all three on one board. Three cheers for jigsaws!

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In the loft on the right side.

We started with the right long wall that extends into the kitchen. We started at the floor (keeping it in the gap we had left for such occasion when we installed and stained our floors). we worked our way up until the lofts and roof began. Drew had the fun job of installing smaller pieces between each of the rafters. We think it turned out well.

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A crappy picture lighting-wise, but at least you can see the board layout. It looks a lot better in person.
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We painted the heads of our screws to match the wood. Now our panels are removable in case we ever need to get behind them to fix something. Also, this window edge will be refined and covered with trim.

 

Behind each board we would install our wool insulation (remember this?) We had to retrieve our random bags and boxes of wool from all over the shop, hidden away after the subfloor disaster. Installing the wool went well – as long as we avoided the nails sticking through the plywood. Ouch.

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So much wool. Wool everywhere.

Predictably, we then worked on the left long wall. We stopped where the bathroom starts, because we needed to use a special waterproofing system for the walls there. From there we were free to work on the nook area and the back wall. We managed to get this far over the course of a few weeks.

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Yet another crappy picture, but this shows you the left wall up to where the bathroom and closet start.
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The wheel well will be covered with a piece of our wall plywood and framed with trim.

Next, it was time for playing with ladders! Our favorite. We began installing our gable roof ceiling panels, which was tricky for many reasons. For one, we have all our finished boards in a giant stack in the center of the house. It is a tiny house after all, meaning there’s not much space to maneuver around a giant stack of wood. So aside from needing to move ladders around the pile, we needed to have a box of wool high enough that we could reach it to install while standing on the ladder, and we had the awkward angle of the roof to contend with. We’re essentially installing the panels upside down. Somehow we managed to do one whole side of the roof. At the top near the ridge beam we had to be clever about installing the wool. We only had a small space in which to get it in there, so it did rain wool in our house as we tried to fit it in the small crack. Overall it turned out well.

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Working our way up the ceiling.
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Working up over the storage loft.

We only did one half of the ceiling because we’re waiting for our new woodstove! We need to know where the exhaust pipe will exit through the ceiling before we can work on the other side of the roof. In other news, we ordered our cute little woodstove! More on that in another post.

 

Onward to the dormer walls. Again, working around the windows was tricky, but thankfully we actually had something to sit on while working. The half circle window in the dormers actually went more smoothly than we thought it would. We cut a piece to fit the length, cut the outlet holes, and then traced the outline of the window on the back and cut it with a jigsaw. Voila.

 

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The cheek walls (the triangular walls created between the dormer and gable roofs) were a little more tricky too, but we employed the same technique we used with the half circle dormer window and traced each board to fit. All these rough edges will be covered with trim, which helps.

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We also finished the dormer ceiling! We may not have dealt with ladders, but we still had fight gravity.

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We had to install wedges in order to create the curve in the ceiling to go over the ridge beam.
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Our finished dormer ceiling! (Sans trim.)

So that’s as far as we are now! Making progress, slowly but surely. And now winter’s here. At least our house will be insulated for it. Onward!

Interior Wall Boards – Part I

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Well, we’ve (mostly) completed plumbing, we’ve (nearly) completed electrical, now we’re onto installing the walls! It really is a relief to finally be working on something a little less technical.

First, we need to decide on a look for the interior. (That whole “wanting the house to look nice” thing.) We both really like the aesthetic of varnished wood, but didn’t want all the knots and spots you tend to see in pine. Pine is often used in tiny houses because of the cost and weight, but we really dislike the chaotic look. We considered painting the interior, but decided against it because we preferred a more natural appearance. So we knew we needed a wood species that looked really good. We looked around. We thought about milling hardwood like we did for our floor boards, but found that because of the way hardwoods are sold and processed, we would have had to buy boards that were twice as thick as we needed. This means we would have to plane the boards down, turning half of our investment into sawdust. So we began looking into high-grade hardwood plywood. At first we were hesitant about using plywood. We’ve read a lot about how plywoods tend to be made with heavy-duty adhesives that contain high amounts of urea-formaldehyde. Normally, because formaldehyde is natural and commonly found in in low levels in most building materials you just have to learn to live with it, but in such high concentrations in such a small space, we had to be careful. However, we found a type of birch plywood called PureBond Hardwood Plywood made by Columbia Forest Products that sold itself on using formaldehyde free adhesives and zero voc processing methods. After a little research, we decided to try it!

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We both really like the look of birch (just see our flooring) so we bought a stack of ½ cabinet grade hardwood plywood. All 28 sheets of it! Afterwards, all we needed to do was decide on the board width. We looked around online at other tiny houses and decided we liked the look of wider boards. We determined that we could cut our boards into roughly 9” wide slats and leave ourselves with only half an inch left over. Talk about efficient! This took only a few hours of work. We also decided to add an extra dimension of texture to our walls by making a small horizontal groove at the top of each board to make it appear as if there was a small darkened space between each board. This created a strong dark line along each board that made the final look appear much more modern and clean. After that, we had our boards! Now we had to varnish them…

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We decided to finish our wall boards with a simple zero voc furniture varnish from ECOS Paints. We sealed our floors with a very similar product from ECOS, and we were very happy with how easy it was to work with and how clean and good looking the final product looked, so we ordered a little bit more for our wall finishing.

We then made an assembly line for processing the boards. We would sand each board, varnish it, put it up to dry in the house (in our excellent holding racks made of leftover 2x4s stacked all over the house), wait til they dried, sanded the boards again, varnished again, and then repeat it all over again.

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I must say, I did enjoy traversing through the boards while humming the Mission Impossible theme song as I tried to scale the boards to access and pile the dry ones in the back.

What made things even more complicated was that only half of them could fit in the house at one time to dry… which meant we ended up with two stacks of boards, one a step further along in the process than the other. Just to make things more confusing. You KNOW how much we love confusing.

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We ended up with five separate layers of boards in the house, many carefully balanced across 2x4s as shown here.

Next we’ll be installing the boards, and finally we just might get to really work on the interior! Woohoo!

The Back Wall is Finished!

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We all know by now how much I love working with shakes… This wall was no exception (though not nearly as complicated as the front wall!) The biggest challenge with this one was making sure we had enough shakes left to finish the project. We had pre-cut some shakes that randomly disappeared in the shop the couple days we weren’t there, which left us scouring our remainders to see if we had enough. Luckily we were able to stain some more and had enough to finish the back wall. This is the result!

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We luckily didn’t need to use a ladder (we weren’t sure how we’d lean it on the house over the bike box and without hitting the shakes). I was able to reach the majority of it, and for the last row closest to the roof Drew (who is much taller than me) could reach up and get it. It’s convenient having a tall guy around.

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We also put siding up leading up to where the shakes begin, just like we had done for the other walls and the bike box. Nothing we weren’t used to. However, like the shakes, we were afraid we’d run out. And, we did! We were one piece short. Not too bad, considering it was all guesswork in determining how much we’d need at the beginning.

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The wooden trim around the window was installed the same way we installed it for the front half circle window. What was nice about this wall was that it was a lot of repeat work from the other walls, so we didn’t face many new obstacles (which certainly makes for a nice change of pace…)

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Next we’ll be installing the front door. We may not have any tarps on the house, but we still have a large plastic sheet covering the front entryway to keep out rainwater. (That is until we finish the door.) We’re almost completely plastic-sheet-free!

Bike Box Part Two – Doors, Siding, Roof, and Snow

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We’ve recently been working on the bike box (see part one here) and are now onto building the bike box doors. The doors were a bit tricky because the pitch at the top of the doors had to match the pitch of the roof. So we set to measuring and building.

P1020055.JPGWe began with building the frame to the dimensions of the opening. We used 6 inch log screws to connect the boards, mainly because they were the longest we had and nothing else would do it. We then cut the top piece and adhered it with the same log screws we’d used below.

Next, we routed out a ledge along the back of the door frame where our cedar tongue and groove boards would fall. We did this so that the back of the door would lay flush with the frame so we’d have even surface to roll our bikes on up into the box. Using the router was rough – the first time we used it the bit bore too far into the wood and cracked it. After replacing the piece of wood, we tried again. We had a close call when we plugged the router in and it suddenly started up. Drew did a magic ‘oh crap’ dance and stopped it from running into anything.

Next, we cut the cedar tongue and groove to size to fit into the grooves in the door frame. Drew then used a pin nailer to adhere them to the door. P1020064.JPGAs an extra protection, we attached a bit of 1/4 inch trim around the back to prevent the boards from coming loose. Here is the finished product!

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We completed the other door in the same fashion and then attached some oil-rubbed door hinges to the bottoms.

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A finished bike box door
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Looking into the bike box. The doors fold down so that we can roll our bikes in. There is another door at the far end of the box that opens just like this one.

 

…And then it snowed.

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Which unfortunately slowed us down for a few days, but once it melted enough we were able to get back to work. We put down boards so we could get across the snow without tracking mud or snow everywhere, which was great until the snow under the boards turned to mush and we began slipping and sliding everywhere… Not something you want to do while carrying power tools.

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It deceivingly appears to provide safe passage.

Next it was on to the siding! I installed rain screen on the back wall along the stud lines (which I drew with chalk so I knew where they were). The process was the same as when we installed it on the large walls, but conveniently much shorter and reachable.

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Rain screen construction – the panels are nailed in first, then tar paper is adhered around them with cap nails.
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Finished rain screen

We inserted the top ends of the tar paper under the trim so as to prevent water from getting in.

Next, we added the siding. Again, same process as on the house, only conveniently within reach (though the snow did add it’s own challenges..)

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Mmm. Fun.
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Finished bike box siding

Now the three sides were done, so it was time for the roof! We hadn’t received the roofing yet, so we (luckily) needed to wait until the ground was dry.

I ended up working on shakes while Drew finished the roofing. Since the bike box is kind of a mini tiny house, the roofing wasn’t nearly as complicated as it was on the ‘big house’. Drew adhered the panels to the roof with roofing screws, leaving a short overhang over the door to help prevent water from sneaking in through the door opening. Then he installed “Z” flashing, a type of flashing that the top panel adheres to. Because our kitchen window extends so low near the roof, Drew cut the transition flashing around the window in order for it to fit. He finished the process by sealing the top with a layer of silicone.

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Top view of bike box roof
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The “Z” flashing fully installed

And the bike box is finished! (Aside from a few tweaks here and there…)

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Where To Store Our Bicycles? – Part One

Early on in the designing process Drew and I ran into a problem. We both like to use bicycles for transportation, so we certainly want to keep them with us in our house, but we couldn’t figure out where to store them. We looked up creative bike storage solutions, and while many of them would work for ‘normal’ houses, none would fit in our house. We considered creating a pulley-storage system where we’d attach the bikes to cables and hoist them up to hang from the roof in the great room. But besides the possibility of hitting our heads on them every time we ascend or descend from the loft, we didn’t like the idea of tracking road grit into the house or onto the ceiling. So that left exterior storage. We have no idea where we’ll be parking and we don’t know if we’ll have access to a water-resistant garage, so our system needed to be independent of where we are located. We definitely want to keep our bikes out of the elements since we plan to use them often. So what should we do?

 

We came up with the idea of building a bicycle storage box on the tongue of the trailer. We have around three feet horizontally and four feet vertically to work with. We built a floor frame with 2x2s and put it on the trailer. Then we brought our bikes to the work-site and tried it out based on our dimensions. They fit! BUT of course there’s a caveat. Our bikes can stand up in that space, but this would create a very shallow roof pitch for the box. Since our box is right under the kitchen window, we don’t have very much height to work with – especially since we still need to add trim to the bottom of the window.

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So how could we get both bikes to fit easily? We already decided the box would be accessible from either side – basically the doors will fold down into a ramp that we can use to roll the bikes into the box. Smart, right? Theoretically yes, if we could figure out how to get our bikes to fit…

 

So we brainstormed and came up with a solution. Since Drew’s bike is larger than mine, Drew agreed to take off his front tire whenever he stores his bike. We tried the process and he could complete the whole thing in under a minute. We then put the bikes on the floor frame and were able to create a much steeper roof pitch! (It’s even deeper than our dormers, which are a shallow 12 degrees.)  We had a solution!

 

Next we set to making the box. We used 2x2s because they’re thinner than 2x4s, which allowed for more interior space.

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We added six vertical studs to each long side of the box and cut roofing rafters at a 14 degree angle so that they lined up with the studs. We used rafter ties for support since we’ll be facing hurricane-force winds on the road.

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Then we cut plywood sections for the front wall and roof, glued and drilled them in place, then set to covering the whole thing with tar paper. We started at the base and worked our way up under the kitchen window. We tucked the top ends under the existing tar paper around the window, sealed the whole thing with flashing tape, and nailed it in with the same kind of cap nails we used for the roof.

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Next, it was onto the doors. This was tricky because we needed to account for the hinge at the base of the doors, which could interfere with whatever trim we used on the door. We decided to use reclaimed cedar boards from a local beekeeper friend of Drew’s dad (the same as the kind we used for behind the water and electrical outputs) for the door. We also routed a groove around the edges of the door so that the door would fit snugly into the frame when closed and keep water out. We tucked the edges of the tar paper in around the frame and attached cedar trim on the exterior opening.

This is as far as we’ve gotten at this point. Now it’s time to build the actual doors! Keep an eye out for part two!

 

“That’s Pretty Darn Fancy for a Fart Fan.”

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Well, we’re officially back to working on the house after quite a hiatus. After being away for a few months we now see the whole thing with new eyes. We’ve conveniently forgotten how difficult and tiring the whole process has been and are simply amazed at what we were able to accomplish before we left. “We’ve built most of a house, Drew! An actual house!” Every nail was hammered in and every heavy wall lifted and secured into place (with some help, of course). It’s amazing.

So after we stared at our house a bit, we started planning out what we need to start on. It’s December now, and luckily it’s been a relatively warm and dry one so far – so best to take advantage of it while we can and finish the exterior. We long for the day we’ll never have to deal with the torn up tarps ever again. They’ve been nothing but trouble.

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We first mapped out how the front of the house is going to look. This has been tricky because we’d like to create a covered porch, but our dimensions are a bit narrow due to how large our half circle window is. Plus, we’ll need to maneuver it around the fascia board. We’re still in the process of figuring this one out; if you have any ideas, please let us know. On the front, we’re also adding a fold-down porch. Sam is kindly building a custom front door for us and we’re looking forward to seeing how it all goes together.

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On the back side of the house we are building a bicycle box to, you guessed it, hold our bicycles. This was another challenge because it will need to fit under our kitchen window and only extend out on the tongue of the trailer to the edge of the pull-away cable attachment. Since our bikes are around the same height, the roof pitch of our bike box could end up being very shallow, which means water could pool on top. The way we’re getting around this is by Drew removing his front tire (since he has the taller bike) whenever he puts his bike away. We’ve tested this and it’s a pretty fast process, so we think we’ve solved this issue for now.

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So after figuring all that out, it was time to work on the siding. With Sam’s help, Drew and I installed about half the siding on the large left wall. We stopped part way up so that we’d have the space needed to install our bathroom fan.

Now you need to understand that we bought the fan back in August and have only just now opened the box. While everything looked to be in good shape, what we didn’t expect was how big the fan itself was. It’s about a square foot, which for a tiny house wall is huge! We figure we’ll disguise it somehow later on once we have the interior walls finished. The fan vent that extends outside, however, isn’t the prettiest thing either. It’s basically a white plastic cover with a lid that opens. We didn’t really like the way it looked so we got creative.

Hence, the quote from a friend of ours that is the title of this post. I now introduce to you our wonderful birdhouse, the prettiest darn fancy fart fan cover you ever did see:

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Introducing our brand new birdhouse fart fan!

Drew designed and built the whole thing. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s not just a pretty cover, though. First off, it has no bottom, so real birds hopefully won’t find a way to live in it. Also, this allows the fan’s air to escape the house easily. In addition, the ‘door’ of the birdhouse allows airflow, as do the vents Drew created in the top of the house. He made it wide enough so the cover opens easily. Magnifique!

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Next we worked on the cedar shakes that go on the walls around the dormers. In a similar painting process to the siding, we painted one side with milk paint and stained the other side with linseed oil. This process took a couple of days, but once finished I could begin adhering the shakes to the walls. We allowed an overlap of about half an inch over the cedar board below. This was so the rain screen had a top cap that allows for the airflow to have a continuous vent.  

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Some of the boards involved very intricate cuts around the window framing. Cedar is a very flexible wood, which can be both good and bad. It’s good because it allows us to cut it with a razor if needed, but bad in that it tends to break when working with a thin piece. I had to redo a piece three times because both the jigsaw and razor kept breaking the thin pieces I was working on. Overall I think it’s a nice material to work with. I’m enjoying it.

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So now the overall goal is to get the exterior of the house done before the cold weather really sets in. So far the weather has uncharacteristically cooperated and we have been able to work outside easily. Drew’s been putting some last finishing touches on the roof, and once the front and back walls are a little farther along we may actually be done with the tarps once and for all. Fingers crossed!